It's impossible to perfectly predict the future of a chosen community and neighborhood, but paying attention to the information that is available to you now can help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

QUESTION: We are moving to a new state and community. How can we pick a good neighborhood that is on the way up and coming instead of going the other way? We don’t want to make a mistake and buy a home on the wrong side of town.

ANSWER: It's impossible to perfectly predict the future of a chosen community and neighborhood, but paying attention to the information that is available to you now can help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

First of all, don’t buy a property unseen or in an unseen neighborhood. You want to physically visit the neighborhood, not just once, but at different times of the day and week. Walk around, stop in local shops and restaurants, engage in conversations with the locals about the history and trends in the community and neighborhood. What are the local recreational amenities? Are the public transit, infrastructure – roads and bridges, etc. in good shape? Crumbling?

What about local health care options? Is there a good local hospital in the community? Medical providers? Visit the public library. I personally would not want to live in a community without a good library. What kind of resources and programming does it have?

Read local newspapers. If you have picked out a property, visit the local registry of deeds and find a history of the property, assessment, etc. Talk with neighbors. Ask them what kind of development plans are in the works for your neighborhood in the future.

Is your street likely to become a major street or a popular rush-hour shortcut? Will a highway be built in your backyard in five years? What are the zoning laws in your area? Is there a lot of undeveloped land? What is likely to get built there?

Have home values in the neighborhood been declining? Climbing? What is the reputation of local schools? Good schools attract good neighbors.

If you are happy with the answers to these questions, and your own observations, then your home’s location is likely a good one. Buying a home is not a perfect science. But if you do your homework, you will likely make a good choice and avoid surprises and pitfalls.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: lrgoodspeed@comcast.net.